Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Surface Power Cover finally enters pre-sales stage, set to ship March 19

It's here: the long-promised Surface Power Cover accessory for the Surface Pro, Surface 2, and Surface Pro 2 tablets has arrived, at least via pre-order (available here); it was first noticed by ZDNet on Monday, when it went live.

The accessory takes the place of a Type or Touch Cover, but at the same time extends battery life through a built-in battery. It will not work with the original Surface RT tablet.

Interestingly, the specs provided by Microsoft indicate that it weighs the same -- 0.55 pounds -- as the Type Cover 2. It is, however, nearly twice as thick, at 9.75 mm vs. the Type Cover 2's5.0 mm.

So how did Microsoft achieve that weight savings despite the additional thickness? Hard to say, but the Surface Power Cover does omit the backlighting available in the Type Cover 2. If you covet that feature, stay away from this keyboard.

The Microsoft Store pre-order page claims that the Surface Power Covers will increase battery life by up to 70 percent. Naturally the words "up to" need to be reviewed carefully, but when Microsoft first introduced the accessory, they promised battery-life increases of only up to 50 percent.

The full blurb from the pre-sales page is:
Extends battery life while you work

Work with the speed and functionality of a classic laptop keyboard while extending the battery life of your Surface up to 70% with the Power Cover. It also recharges your Surface's battery while you work. You'll have plenty of juice to stay unplugged all day in the office, during a full day of classes, or on a cross-country flight.

Windows shortcut, function keys, media controls, and trackpad

The Power Cover has all the standard features of a classic QWERTY keyboard—a full row of Function keys (F1-F12), Windows shortcut keys, media controls, and a trackpad make it easy to navigate your Surface without taking your hands off the keyboard. An ultra-thin trackpad lets you control the cursor with your fingertip.

Doubles as screen cover

Fold the Power Cover back like a book cover to get the full touchscreen experience—the keys are disabled when the cover is flipped back. When closed, the Power Cover shuts down your display to preserve battery life, and helps protect the screen from bumps and scratches when you’re on the move.
Microsoft announced plans to provide Power Covers for its Surfaces in October of last year when it launched its second generation Surface tablets. While the Haswell CPU in the Surface Pro 2 was seen as adding significant battery improvements over the original model, these Power Covers were seen as the final piece that would make the Intel-based tablet a "full-day" workstation. They will probably be extremely popular with first-generation Surface Pro owners, who saw battery life discussions as a sad thing.

Originally, officials said Power Covers would be available in "early 2014," which is stretching it in terms of March. Microsoft execs have not provided any further updates about the timing on the covers.

The Surface Power Cover is available only in black, and will sell for $199.99 with free ground shipping. Expedited two-day shipping is $9.99; next day shipping is $16.99. They will ship on March 19.

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